Private Browsing Isn’t Really Private

During the last evolution in web browsers, one of the greatest innovations was the arrival of “private browsing”.  Some programs called it a “private window”, others named it “Incognito Mode”, but the gist was the same all over: use this new form of browsing and no one would be able to track your online movements!

Unfortunately, like most anything that seems too good to be true, that isn’t quite how it works.

Private or Incognito browsing does essentially one thing: it prevents your browsing history from being stored.  You can accomplish the same thing yourself by clearing your browsing history every time you close your web browser, but let’s be honest, nobody would remember to do that every time, and that’s why private browsing was invented.

Private browsing is great for some things.  It’s a great option if someone borrows your computer; in private mode, your browser won’t automatically bring up your email or social media accounts, so there’s no awkward signing out before they see something.  It’s also a great idea for any sites you don’t want other people stumbling on; secret engagement rings or anniversary gifts can’t be snooped from private mode.

However, you cannot use private browsing to look for a new job on your company’s network and expect it to stay a secret.  Private browsing only affects the individual computer you’re using.  If your company monitors their network traffic, they can see exactly where you go online and what you do, even if that private window doesn’t store the history on your machine.  If you’re at home, your own ISP can also see what sites you visit and where you click, despite that “incognito mode” window.

Private browsing is useful for using a shared or public computer, but it doesn’t hide everything.  Use common sense when it comes to your privacy and security.

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